UUP councillor 'disillusioned and heartbroken' to be overlooked for Robin Swann's Stormont seat

Cllr Darryl Wilson - FacebookCllr Darryl Wilson - Facebook
Cllr Darryl Wilson - Facebook
​An Ulster Unionist councillor has said he is “disillusioned and heartbroken” to have been overlooked as Robin Swann's replacement MLA at Stormont.

Following confirmation that councillor Colin Crawford has been selected by the UUP to be co-opted to the assembly – replacing the former health minister as an MLA for North Antrim – councillor Darryl Wilson said he has “concerns” and has posed a number of questions to the party.

Mr Swann stood as the UUP candidate for South Antrim in last week’s general election and topped the poll – replacing the DUP’s Paul Girvan on the green benches at Westminster.

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Long-serving Ballymoney councillor Mr Wilson has been overlooked in favour of a party colleague who was elected to represent Ballymena at Mid and East Antrim Council for the first time last May.

Colin Crawford with Robin Swann following the council election in May 2023Colin Crawford with Robin Swann following the council election in May 2023
Colin Crawford with Robin Swann following the council election in May 2023

In a Facebook message yesterday, Mr Wilson said: “I had put my name forward to be considered for the vacant MLA position in North Antrim, and it is with a heavy heart that I share the news of my unsuccessful bid.

“I am awaiting feedback from the party regarding concerns and questions that I have surrounding the process.

“Over the past decade, I have been honoured to serve as the highest polling Ulster Unionist councillor in North Antrim, a testament to the trust and confidence placed in me by our community here in Ballymoney.

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“I have worked tirelessly to engage with as many people as possible on a regular basis over the last 10 years.”

According to the Mid and East Antrim Council register of members’ interests, Mr Crawford is a member of both the Orange Order and Royal Black Institution, as well as having a role in the Junior Orange Order and the Harryville Residents’ Association.

Additionally, he has declared an interest in Harryville Primary School as a school governor.

The co-option of Mr Crawford for North Anrtim, was officially declared by the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland late on Wednesday afternoon

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In his statement on social media, Cllr Wilson said: “My unwavering support and dedication to our party and constituents have been the cornerstone of my political career.

"I have worked relentlessly to address the needs and concerns of all, striving to make a positive impact in our area.

"It is therefore deeply saddening, disillusioning and heartbreaking to face this outcome.”

The Causeway Coast and Glens councillor said he takes “immense pride” in his strong electoral performances over the years, and has thanked party leader Doug Beattie for his support.

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Mr Wilson added: “I will make use of the upcoming holiday period to reflect on recent events, consult my family, friends and loved ones to plot my course for the future.

“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the people of Ballymoney for their ongoing support, engagement, and encouragement.

“Nonetheless, I remain committed to serving our community as your elected representative on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council with the same passion and dedication that I have always demonstrated.

“I will continue to work for the betterment of North Antrim in any way I can throughout the remainder of this term until 2028 and beyond!”

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Both the TUV and the independent MLA Alex Easton are also due to announce who they will co-opt to their Stormont seats following the general election.

TUV leader Jim Allister is now the MP for North Antrim, while Mr Easton will be at Westminster representing North Down.

Meanwhile, the UUP in Fermanagh and South Tyrone has announced that former MP and MLA Tom Elliott will be known as Baron Elliott of Ballinamallard in the Lords.

In a statement yesterday, it was also revealed that Mr Elliott will continue to serve as an “interim” MLA for the constituency at Stormont.

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“The Baron has been a long-standing and loyal member of our association for many years and we are overjoyed at the news of his elevation to the House of Lords.

“This great honour reflects the steadfast and unwavering commitment he has shown to the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone over his two decades of public service,” the association said.